Trauma can make you question if you will ever be the same. Will you keep having flashbacks? Will the panic attacks ever cease when you think of that event? Will you always feel burdened by the emotions swirling around in your mind? Will your body always remind you of the physical pain you felt?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is an anxiety disorder that occurs after an individual has experienced a traumatic event in their life. It can vary from person-to-person, including anything from being involved in a car accident, to having a stillborn baby, to being injured in war.
The faces of trauma can look like:
- Someone has it all together but feels as though they are dying inside.
- Someone who avoids any reminders of the event that changed their life. They might pull to themselves and never talk about the event.
- Someone who tries to put on a show and convince themselves they have it all together when they are spending their nights tossing and turning, having terrible nightmares, uncertain of how to ask for help.
Those with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can experience intrusive thoughts and memories of the trauma, physiological reactions, flashbacks, and nightmares. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms can include:
- Hopelessness; absence of positive emotions
- Avoidance (avoiding memories of the event, avoiding places, avoiding conversations)
- Intrusive flashbacks
- Exaggerated, startled responses
- Self-destructive behavior
- Sleep difficulties
- Distressing associations
“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” – Vicki Harrison
Many traumatic situations are overlooked. We often write off some situations and some people without really looking underneath the surface of their pain. Car accidents, medical emergencies, natural disasters, and combat are a few of many common incidents that people might be struggling with.
While many view miscarriages as a completely normal physical occurrence, it can be overwhelmingly traumatic for the woman experiencing it. It can also be traumatic for the husband of the woman going through a miscarriage as she bleeds, becomes ill as the tissue works its way out of her body, and is desperate for answers.
She asks: Will it happen again? Did I do something wrong? How long will it take me to grieve? Is it okay to grieve?
He asks: How can I support her through this loss? How do I tell her that I am also grieving when she is experiencing so much physical and emotional turmoil?
Some military soldiers are injured in combat drills and are forced to leave their careers with lifelong injuries.
They feel like the military was their long-term career. They loved going to work every day so having to leave their passion can be traumatic as they deal with an injury and the emotions of having to start fresh.
Some first responders see physical pain and violence on every single shift. While it may be “common” for their profession, it might not ever feel normal to:
- Help a rape victim feel safe following a violent attack.
- Remove the victim of second or third-degree burns from their childhood home as their violent screams echo in the dead of night.
- Talk to a victim who just attempted suicide.
- Tell a family member that their loved one is dead.
- Talk to a young mom who is sobbing as she answers the door with an unresponsive child.
Car accidents and natural disasters can affect one’s physical conditions and emotional state. Will they ever feel safe again? Will they ever drive on the road and not think of the accident that crushed their leg?
“Medical trauma is emotional and physical responses to pain, injury, serious illness, medical procedures, and frightening treatment experiences.” Cancer patients, limb-losing patients, and caretaking for someone with a serious illness can all include traumatic experiences.
The loss of a close relationship, a humiliating experience, and surgeries are other commonly overlooked traumatic situations. The face of trauma is when you are left feeling isolated and overwhelmed in an event or situation. It can be a one-time event, ongoing events, or an overlooked cause.
Key Elements to Consider About Trauma
Trauma has so many overlooked elements to it. It can range from one event that completely altered your life, to a series of events or experiences that changed you in a major way.
Here are some key elements to consider about any trauma you have faced:
1. Your emotional wounds are valid. Do not push your feelings into the dark. Do not harbor your pain under the surface. Do not compare your traumatic event or situation to someone else’s. Your pain is yours alone, and it is okay to feel it, to deal with it on your own timeline, to talk about it, and to look for physical and emotional healing.
“Trauma is personal. It does not disappear if it is not validated. When it is ignored or invalidated the silent screams continue internally heard only by the one held captive. When someone enters the pain and hears the screams healing can begin.” – Danielle Bernock
2. Allow yourself time to heal. It is instrumental not to put a timeline on your traumatic situation or someone else’s. Every person is different. Everyone processes trauma in their own way and should be allowed to work through their emotions in due time. Permit yourself to heal.
Permit yourself to cry. Do not try to bottle everything up and mask your emotional turmoil. Cry on someone’s shoulder. Hold someone’s hand. Ask someone to bring you a meal. Allow yourself to be human.
3. Do not live blaming yourself. For the woman who experiences miscarriage after miscarriage or someone who was involved in a horrific car accident, it can be so difficult to blame yourself. Continued blame will not allow you the opportunity to process the pain or allow yourself to heal. Things often happen that are out of our control. We must accept what was and find the rainbow that is awaiting you just beyond this storm.
4. Find healthy coping outlets. For those trying to cope with a traumatic event, you must avoid trying to numb your emotions and allow yourself to feel and heal. Try a new sport, paint, author a book, start writing songs again, journal, or volunteer at a local shelter.
Find something positive to pour your heart and soul into. Find a healthy coping outlet that will help you propel forward rather than retreat from your emotions and relationships. Let your faith lead more than your fear. Let Jesus into the darkest corners of your heart. Cry out to Him. Find comfort in God’s Word. Find support at your church.
5. Find peer support. Peer support can be one of the most pivotal coping tools for those who have experienced a traumatic situation. For first responders, you can talk to your peers after difficult calls. You can check in on one another. Peer support is a way for people to come together who have experienced similar challenges. This way, you do not feel so alone. In peer support, you can work through your trauma in a non-judgmental way.“Deep grief sometimes is almost like a specific location, a coordinate on a map of time. When you are standing in that forest of sorrow, you cannot imagine that you could ever find your way to a better place. But if someone can assure you that they themselves have stood in that same place, and now have moved on, sometimes this will bring hope.” – Elizabeth Gilbert
6. Allow others to support you. Avoidance is a common trauma response. You might avoid people, places, and things that remind you of the trauma or that might bring up questions of the trauma. Unfortunately, long-term avoidance does not mean that the trauma is forgotten.
If you continue to avoid it, it can continue to burden your weary soul. Allow others in to love on you. Allow your church to bring meals and pray with you. Allow others to hold your hand. Allow others to minister to you in your darkest time. For those currently experiencing the effects of trauma, know that you do not have to take this journey alone. Allow us to help guide you in an emotional, physical, and spiritually healing journey. Your pain and feelings are valid. Your future is bright. If you know someone experiencing a traumatic or life-altering situation – keep checking on them.
Scripture to aid you in your healing journey
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:10
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds, we are healed. – Isaiah 53:5
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. – Lamentations 3:21-23
Casting all your anxieties on him because he cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:7